Cate Shortland's first full movie directorial debut is a mindfield of complex emotions in a young girl trying to grow up on her own, with no direction home. Accustomed to the Australian desert after films like Goddess of 1967 and Japanese Story, we see something that is the least expected from Australia - snow.
With a shimmering musical score and a palette of blue and red, Somersault is the depiction of a teenage girl racing as hard and as fast as she can through life, but she is still a child at heart. Growing up too fast with no hard set boundaries, Heidi makes a more than innocent play on her mother's boyfriend. Despite the protestations of the boyfriend "we were doing nothing!" this leads to a row with her mother who catches the two of them in the bedroom.
Somersault is almost a first for an audience up north - seeing snow in Australia. Set in a rough ski town called Jindabayne in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Heidi is forced to fend for herself and cope on her own. A skiing contact she had hoped to meet up with from a past goround does not remember her. With no chance of going home in her mindset, she starts digging around for a source of money, food, comfort, a place to stay. She finds excitement at night at a club and poolhall where the locals and youth hangout to drink, smoke, dance. She catches the eye of Joe, a young good-looking man - and he hers as she almost sensually dances to the rhythm of the loud music. The two of them somehow hook up and head out into the night, maybe to his place outside of town. They end up at the motel room. The degree of intimacy is beyond anything straight and physical - it is in the touch of hands and maybe a sense of Joe just looking out for her even though there is the attraction between the two.
Joe has his own day-to-day helping out his dad on the farm. Heidi is befriended by the elderly owner of the motel who runs the place by herself who gives Heidi a flat to stay in. And Heidi lands a job at the BP. With a sense of place, Heidi has what she wants, except Joe. Joe tries to distance himself from Heidi, increasingly he rejects her constant phonecalls at all hours of the night and day. Even though there is a relationship, he remains distant, a sense of trying to figure out what is the right thing. Inaction on one side leads to action of another kind by the other.
The fast editing, the loud music in the bar, the ethereal score during moments of repose, the fleeting glances of life depict the whirlwind in Heidi's mind. The consequences of the inability to deal with intimacy and real emotions in a young budding relationship are the core issues of Somersault, and lead to a somersault of actions.
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